I fished sparingly along Oak Creek in the month of June, as the longer days and lower clear flows of summer took hold. My first outing along the stream occurred near the start of June, coinciding with my folks coming to visit Regan and I in Flagstaff.
I was able to spend a couple of days with my dad along Oak Creek, and shared a few favorite runs with him. It was his first time casting along the stream, and he quickly gained an appreciation for the beauty of the place, and also the associated challenging fishing conditions. He soon connected with a chunky, 14-15" brown in a deeper slot, on a #18 BH Thread and Copper on 5X, and guided the trout to the shallows after several dogged runs--his first Oak Creek fish, and a fine one at that.
My dad was my first fishing partner, and we shared many fond memories seeking out wild trout together in beautiful settings. We have not been able to fish as much with each other in the past few years, so it was even more of a joy to share this time with him in a place that has become special to me. He hooked several other vibrant Oak Creek browns on this day, including a scrappy fish in the low teens that threw the hook several runs upstream of the fish above, and a few in the 9-11" range in a pocketwater stretch further north in the canyon.
I managed to get away on my own near the end of June, and fished a new favorite reach. I fooled this football-shaped female brown of 16.5" on a #10 Crawbugger, dead-drifted near the head of a productive deeper run. A #18 BH Thread and Copper was trailing off of the streamer, but for whatever reason, all of the trout caught on this day showed a definite preference for the streamer; perhaps recently hatched fry and baitfish were particularly prevalent at this time.
I reached a nice pocketwater stretch upstream, featuring a few springs that bubble into the main flow, where I have had only limited success in the past.
I found a number of good-sized rainbows here on this day, in the 12-16" range; most of these were holdover hatchery fish from the looks of them (a shriveled fin or two and drab hues), although one 13-14" male showed striking coloration, and several other smaller individuals had the sleek forms and clean fins of wild trout. I suspect the contributing springs may have attracted these fish, and also the highly-oxygenated, rough-and-tumble nature of the reach. In any case, it was an unexpected pleasure to hook a number of fine, energetic trout in quick succession, all on the Crawbugger.
I also connected with a somewhat larger rainbow that I initially spooked from a shallow backwater; the trout charged upstream, then settled into the tail of a tumbling run, where I approached it more carefully, and convinced the fish to take a well-placed streamer.
The female measured 17-18", and I suspect this rainbow may also have been of hatchery origin (perhaps a brood fish released into the stream), based on the subdued coloration and a less-muscled, slim appearance; in any case, she was still a stubborn, strong trout, and the longest rainbow I have caught to date in Oak Creek.
I found one final fish of note on this late June day holding in a compact frothing pocket amidst rushing water and boulders. The trout was clearly large and dark in coloration--I assumed it may have been a big brood hatchery male rainbow. I tossed the Crawbugger into the protected lie (about the size of a large sink), and the fish quickly turned, large jaws opening, and confidently inhaled the streamer. The bruiser immediately shook its head in an attempt to throw the hook, then charged downstream, weaving between boulders to evade capture, with me in stumbling pursuit, trying my best to steer the fish clear of obstructions. Eventually, I got a good look at the fish, and realized I was attached to a mega-sized brown. I worked against the long trout some more, finally steered the lunker into my grasp, and gazed in awe at another magnificent Oak Creek brown, this one taping out right at 22".
The long jaws and kype indicated a big male, with deep burning hues of olive, bronze, orange and gold--the sort of fish I always hope to land, but never quite expect.
This brown was a bit slimmer and more streamlined for its size than some of its other kin that I have been fortunate enough to have caught recently--I suspect he may have been holding in the pocketwater looking for some unsuspecting hatchery bows to devour.
Regardless of the factors involved in the bruiser's presence in what I would call unusual holding water for a large cagey brown, it was yet another large impressive fish to savor in my memory, and marvel at briefly in the moment, before returning him to the crystalline flows of Oak Creek.
I spotted a fellow angler upstream soon after releasing the magnificent brown, a young great blue heron that still seemed a bit unsure about how to best capture a finned meal.
The majestic bird allowed me to pass by quietly at close proximity, and even tolerated a few photos.
Oak Creek offered up some treasures for me once more in the month of June, as summer truly took hold. As it turned out, I would not be graced with the presence of the stream again, until the arrival of fall in October and November. So June completed a great run of fly fishing for me along my adopted homewater (or perhaps more appropriately, the water that adopted me into its home), lasting through the spring and early summer. I did find more wild trout in unforgettable places in the following months, both in Arizona and beyond, as the ensuing entries will illustrate.